Sunday, January 22, 2006

Circles Within Circles

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

"This cohesive society that we have carefully nurtured and kept together for 40 years will be fractured. Racial harmony will be destroyed. Whether or not WP intends for this to happen, this will be the tragic result if they implement these ideas."

The above statement by Minister Ng Eng Hen can be found over at Mr Wang's eminently interesting blog. The seeds of electoral contest in Singapore are stirring. To place matters in context, the Workers' Party issued their manifesto sometime last week and Ng's reply was the first official PAP response to WP's manifesto.

And it is an expected response. It is a chilling response. It is a silencing response. And it is a response of closure.

It is a technocrat's response. It is not a politician's response.

Let’s recover the response.

If in forty years of careful nurturing to build a cohesive society, Singapore has not achieved resilience and remains fragile to fracture, whose failure is that? Singapore was born in a state of emergency and it remains in a state of perpetual emergency, as I have often repeated. Non State-sanctioned narratives and alternative possibilities are fore-doomed to fail because it will fracture the cohesiveness of society, racial harmony. But fractures can heal. If so then, racial harmony will be destroyed. Destroyed is a harder word than fracture. Like a nihil. Annihilated.

When the notion that "racial harmony will be destroyed" is invoked in this manner in Singapore, it is an effective silencing. Time and time again, this sacrosanct of Singapore is raised as a red banner to quell alternative opinions, close off pandora-ic possibilities. Such a reflexive State response is rooted time and again in the State's dialogue (or monologue) with Singapore's past, a dialogue which scripts a two-trackeded narrative. The first of progress, modernity and success of Singapore with the PAP and the second, a narrative of communalism and emergency. And this second narrative fashions and shapes the sense of perpetual peril that grips Singapore.

Questioning is the piety of thought. Why will racial harmony be destroyed? In this case by the scrapping of grass-roots organisations, elected Presidency and ethnic-based organisations and the raising of subsidies. What are the implicit assumptions hidden in such a statement : racial harmony will be destroyed. ? . It is not may, it is not possible, it is a "will". Imperative. Will be destroyed. Its like a hidden formula, a self destruct mechanism that is inevitable. Will be destroyed. Have we spent 40 years carefully nurturing a cohesive society that will be destroyed so easily?

Ng is one of the new Ministers. To provide the renewal in thought and in perspective to drive Singapore forward in this millennium. How then can it be that we fall back on this specter of racial disintegration to address issues of possible renewal? It is very very hard for any Singaporean, schooled so perfectly in the structured box of Singapore to think out of the box. The danger to Singapore is not the danger of racial harmony failing, but that paralysis in thought that occurs when faced with parameters you have little or no courage to question.

The pioneering politicians in Singapore, the LKYs and the Goh Keng Swees, did not act within the parameters which the situation of early modern Singapore presented to them. They thought out of the box and created something, and to their credit, successfully. That ensured the State's survival. But new situations demand new thought and old specters, prior parameters, cannot be so simply invoked to unscript the new.

"Whether or not WP intends for this to happen" -- The innuendoes implicit in this single line is stunning in breadth and depth. Ruminate on this : either way, the WP is either deliberately willing racial disintegration on Singapore or its utter short-sightedness will doom Singapore. In a single imperative sentence, WP has been foreclosed as traders of tragedy.

And Singapore, that sullen child, absorbs this silencing statement in silence. When will the teacher recover that intuitive link with this sullen child? To unravel the cynicism that simmers and flashes ever momentarily into the open as a sardonic smile, a barbed witticism, a sly dig, a cool disinterest, a rational detachment?

Singapore is fragile indeed. Fragile because of this sullen disposition which arises from an unwillingly willed paralysis of thought. And it may be that our survival in today's world hinges more on fracturing this paralysis of thought than the imagined proximity of racial disharmony.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Quote of the Day --

"Circle within circle, light within light ... We interpret and defeat their terms with terminus. The night? what of it. It is filled with bestial watchmen, trammeling the extremities and the interstices of the timeless city, portents fallen, constellated deities plummeting in ash and smoke, roaming the apocryphal cities, the cities of speculation and reconstituted disorder, of insemination and incipience, swept round with the dark." -- Samuel R. Delaney, Dhalgren

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Question Concerning Dots

Once there was a sea of disparate dots. Some dots were more beautiful than others. Some were more funny. Some were just wise. but it remained a sea of un-connected dots. Some of these bigger dots had an idea, eidos, and they came together and built an island where smaller dots could come and be revealed to other dots. So this island of the day after was born, brimming with pure potential, what Plato would call ekphanestaton, a poetical revealing.
It is ekphanestaton because the island embodied both poiesis and aletheia. Poiesis being the bringing forth of something into presence while aletheia means the revealing into the truth. This was made possible by technology, the word being Techne which in its oldest form referred not to machines and such, but simply the bringing forth of truth into the splendor of radiant appearing.

In Greek times, Techne was the fine arts, the fine arts is not a separate cultural sector as it is commonly perceived today, it was part of the process of society to bring forth truth into a veiled but splendid presence in which the veil itself is also visible. Poiesis and aletheia.
So in a then lawless sea, the bright dots came together and built an essence of techne which could bring forth other dots into presence and reveal other dots into truth. It is a freedom of the open because all revealing comes out into the open. It is the essence of freedom because what conceals is also in the open and opens into the light. It is freedom.

But there is a danger in poiesis and aletheia. Extreme danger because poiesis and aletheia relies on the framing by the pioneering dots. Because the dots themselves shoulder the island every day, every night, they stand always on the brink of a precipitous fall. And the extreme danger when one is so threatened, is to exalt dot-self to the posture of a lord.
And the essence of revealing is lost and freedom is lost because even as they reveal small dot after small dot, they only encounter themselves.

But where danger is, grows the saving power also.

Because before the island was built; in and of themselves, the dots already had the ability to poeisis and aletheia. Remember techne is a word which means the bringing forth and revealing into truth. Because as the danger is closer and closer, the saving power of the dots, in and of themselves, starts to shine brighter and the dots begin to question more and more (the realm of the poetical).
"And this questioning is the piety of thought."

Note : Totally adapted from Martin Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology".

Quote of the Day --
"But where danger is, grows the saving power also .... Poetically dwells man upon this earth" -- Friedrich Holderlin

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.
It is very simple really, you just have to work, pay your bills and be content with a roof over your head. sometimes, you take a holiday, see the world, come back recharged and live your life. Again and again. Don't think too much. I am content.
Sometimes, I just want to get out of here. I don't know. I feel confined, its as if I know I can do something better, but somehow, the atmosphere, the context here limits me. Its very simple really, I am unhappy because I expect too much.
You got it easy. You got that sum of money and you packed your bags and went. Got yourself an education, hired into a job which allows you to fly to all sorts of weird places, staying for a couple of months in each place and its awesome. Its simple really, you are lucky and I am one of the unfortunates left behind.
My classmate slashed herself. Its the second week of school opening and she cannot cope with the transition to secondary school. She was taken out and I have not seen her since. Its very simple really, she cannot take the stress.
Its hard for me to imagine moving out of this place. I will miss the my friends and most of all, the food. How can you find a place that sells great prata and teh tarik at god forsaken hours except but here. Its very simple really, I have to tune out certain things and just enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Its very simple really, I have a chance to study hard, get myself to university and after that, put in my utmost in my career. Then, my life will be meaningful, all the stress i am going through will be worth it. I can succeed.
My partner and I are totally in love. But society is not quite ready to accept the concept of us being together. Its very simple really, whenever we can, we slip out to Bintan or Thailand and enjoy ourselves to the max. Its just a matter of some personal adjustments.
Sometimes there a good films which I cannot get to watch in full because of the censors. Its very simple really, I either just get hold of the pirated DVDs or if I am lucky, download it off the Net.
When I was studying overseas, I never felt safe enough to walk the streets by myself. I love it back here coz its so damn safe. Its very simple really, this safety lets me live my life in security and peace.
Elections? Haven't had a chance to vote but the way I see it, whoever challenges the PAP are no-hopers. Its very simple really, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and adapt to what cards are dealt you. I'm ok, living fairly comfortably so thinking about elections is an unnecessary encumbrance.
Its very simple .... really.
I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.
Quote of the Day --

"Is happiness the absence of deprivation? If so, servers are, as purebloods like to believe, the happiest stratum in the corpocracy. But if happiness is the conquest of adversity, or the sensation of being valued and fulfilled, then of all Nea So Copros' slaves, we are surely the most miserable" -- David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Monday, January 09, 2006

Preterite Singapore

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant

Was reminded of this word "preterite" by Expat(a)Large. It is a strange word, descriptive and prescriptive at once. It is a grammatarian term to refer to the Past Tense. When used in literature, its meaning starts to ripple. It is something in the past, something left behind, a sense of forgotten, it is a un-historical thing. Imagine "preterite tears", not only past tears but some emotions and feelings left behind. A trailing arc of tears behind the relentless linear movement of Time; around each teardrop, a constellation of emotions and stories.

Preterite Singapore. What has been left behind? A simple Past Tense, Perfect Past Tense or Irregular Past Tense? Its not only past but tense too. Forays into a national past are always tense. There is never a preterite Nanking. Nanking is a contested past. But there is a preterite Singapore. Pick up a secondary History textbook and the narrative of Singapore unfurls like the fluttering flag flown below the Super Pumas every August 9. The state of perpetual emergency that is Singapore, conflates History and Preterite into a simple past tense.

But, to be precise, preterite Singapore cannot be a History of Singapore. Because History records not the left behind, the forgotten, the trailing teardrops with their satellites of stories. Zyl, MetheGirl, Libertas have in some form or another thought about and articulated on this. The struggle for History and those mandated to record it. Below this contest of the National Narrative there is still a Preterite Singapore? What, who are the left behind? Struggling like Gibson's jet-lagged souls to catch up with Mother.

Preterite Singapore are irregular tense pasts. Many, many pasts, memory-networked pasts which are very slowly surfacing as we approach almost 50 years of existence as a collective territoriality. The new film by Singapore Rebel, a documentary on Said Zahari, an ex-detainee of the State, is one such irregular tense past. It will never be History, as the essence and urgency of this past thrives upon emotions, feelings, prejudices, but it is preterite Singapore. Someone left behind. Someone forgotten.

The excavation and recovery of Preterite Singapore should not become another totalising Narrative. It must be recovered as Deleuze's anti-genealogical rhizomes and assembled as many, many irregular tense pasts. Then, perhaps, these preterite stories will help build ladders in the minds of Singaporeans, especially those young, and help some of them scale the twenty-foot edifices all around them.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Quote of the Day --

"I'm writing on a little piece of paper
I'm hoping someday you might find
Well I'll hide it behind something
They won't look behind
I'm still inside here
A little bit comes bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But I just don't know,
I don't know what else I can do"

-- Nine Inch Nails, Every Day is the Same

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Echoing Silences and Gordian Knots

I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.

I have been pondering this NewsWeek article for a few days. Trying to sense the logic of Education Minister's replies. Not surprisingly, he sees that fatal Gordian Knot inherent within our education system. The fact that the system, existing as an exam meritocracy, can only generate the most powerful zombies. Relentless achievers, but relentless achievers within established parameters, within fixed factual boundaries. Imagine how you would thwart an army of zombies. Herd them into a safe zone and build 20 foot walls around them. Threat contained. Problem solved. The point of the article is this : our students and future adult Singaporeans cannot figure out how to break through the twenty foot walls. There lies the critical flaw in our education system. And Tharman can see that. He understands the problem.

What then troubles me about this article? In the words of Satre, every word has an echo, so too does every silence. And what echoes do we hear in this article? The fake US-Singapore comparison and dichotomy painted in the article is a chimera. It is irrelevant. Any knowledgable person can muster the intellectual capability to debunk this false comparison. Newsweek by intent or not, stumbles onto the silenced in Singapore. Politics. Education in Singapore is locked in an embrace with a necessary political program to create Singaporeans who defer to authority and who are focussed only on achieving material goals. To be fair, there is a hint of this : that example of a returning Singaporean whose child was deemed too "pushy". Every word echoes, and so too the silences. The word here is not "pushy", this kid was too political. He stood up and challenged authority. He overturned the layers of respect to authority spread subtly across our years of schooling. Coddling and muzzling the child in his journey of learning.

This is what Mr Tharman will not or cannot(?) say : There is this problem in our education system, we are trying to address creativity and out-of-box thinking but at the same time, it is hopeless because we also need a generation of Singaporeans who recognise authority and not challenge authority. This is the un-utterable. But it echoes still in the article. Creating creativity in a controlled environment is a collapsing contradiction. And on this, the article dances delicately around and beyond this silent/ced topic in Singapore. Remember the Warwick fiasco, it too echoes here in this article. At the end of this dissonant dance, we conclude with a ludicrous comparison between US schools and Singapore schools and inherent class differences. He sees and he understands the problem but ends up articulating a poor metaphor of mountains and valleys. Sad.

Class and comparison are not the issues. The issue is about the echoing silences in the article, isn't it? Its about our students who accept the twenty foot walls around them because they have been taught the twenty foot walls are authoritative Fact, are authoritative Truth. They are taught to accept and not to challenge. Hence, our student will not have a breakthrough finding which debunks the authoritative Fact, the authoritative Truth. And we are left with zombies in a walled enclosure.
Sometimes, its good to listen to the echoing silences which usually drift beyond the walls of truth and the walls of authority.
I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.
Quotes of the Day --
"The order that our mind imagines is like a net or like a ladder, built to attain something. but afterward, you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless ... The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away."
"Do you mean that there would be no possible and communicable learning anymore if the very criterion of truth were lacking, or do you mean you could no longer communicate what you know because others would not allow you to?"
-- The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco